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Cornering (Part 1) Using the System of Motorcycle Control

Do not brake when going into a corner. There is information about trail braking but it is advised to leave that for experts and track riders ho have a lot of experience.

System of Motorcycle Control

In this article we will explore why some people find cornering so difficult or so challenging. To improve and get the best out of your riding you need to change how you view the road by using a structured System of Motorcycle Control. It sounds difficult but it really isn’t, you just need to be focused and want to change.

I will go through and explain many different aspects of cornering. If you apply some of the basic and simple rules that the article covers, you will see changes in your own personal riding.

Below are some of the topics that will be covered in the Monthly Riding Tips

  • Part 1 – Using the System of Motorcycle Control
  • Part 2 – Using IPGSA
  • Part 3 – Information Phase
  • Part 4 – Position Phase
  • Part 5 – Speed & Gear Phase
  • Part 6 – Acceleration Phase
  • Part 7 – Vanishing points and limit points
  • Part 8 – Linking bends

How to change and set the correct foundations

Everyone is different

Most riders have issues when cornering at some stage during their riding, some have issues to start with and others have problems later on. There is a reason why people have different problems at different stages during their riding life.

Common problems

Two common problems arise when riders are new and just starting out. This is usually due to lack of skill, ability and confidence. Whilst riders who have some experience struggle later on, this is usually because as they ride faster, the small problem they had (but maybe never knew about) gets bigger and more difficult to control with speed.

Going faster is a result of becoming confident or over confident. If there is an error in the riding, it will only get bigger and harder to control if speed is increased. Many riders inwardly struggle with cornering and at some point in their journey are scared of falling off, having a hairy moment or feeling the adrenaline flow through their body when they get it wrong. This is certainly not the best feeling to have when riding as the result is stiffening up which prevents the bike from cornering correctly.

A structured plan

The answer to this is; you have got to change what is wrong. Firstly you need to know what is going wrong, then understand why it is going wrong and then find out how to change what you are doing to put it right. Once this is done, it is time to practise the new skills until you are proficient, set the skill so that you can recall it at will and ride with a riding plan and structured planned approach (obviously flexible for unforeseen circumstances).

How to transform your riding when cornering

Slowing things down

The first thing you will have to learn is to slow things down and take your time. Cornering at speed starts with a methodical process, it begins with a deep understanding of how to assess, approach and adapt the correct riding plan.

Every bend counts

Without a structured approach to your riding you will be doing something different at every bend. Sometimes you’ll get it right and other times you won’t, becoming consistent is something that you must learn to be. By adopting a methodical system you will start to process and understand exactly why you have been making mistakes beforehand.

Keeping a reserve

There is no requirement to go fast, ride at a speed that is comfortable and then you can alter what you are doing. Riding at your limit means that you have nothing in reserve and will have problems when going around the bend.

Too much speed will ensure the bike drifts wide and if you are not in control of that you will feel like you are fighting the bike. You might even go for the front brake, or have target fixation and you will definitely stiffen up as you hold the bars too tight. This will put you in more danger as you fight the bike as your body goes rigid, which definitely prevents you from cornering smoothly.

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Ride at 80% of your ability

Lack of knowledge

By using the correct riding techniques and travelling at a speed where you can make alterations to your riding plan, you will feel more comfortable and able to take on more information.

One of the biggest problems we see as trainers is that riders feel they have to go fast to demonstrate how good they are. Speed is not the measure of a good rider, it is not the benchmark for how good you are as a rider. Speed in the wrong hands is a killer, combined with a modern responsive motorcycle and a lack of rider knowledge – this is a recipe for disaster.

Incremental changes

If you only ride at 80% of your natural ability, there will always be some reserve in your tank. This allows you to make some small changes if you get it wrong. Riders on the racetrack go round and round all day, around the same one or two mile circuit. They learn every contour and get to know the track like the back of their hand, it is that familiar to them they know every inch of tarmac. This allows them to concentrate on what they are doing with the bike, concentrating on things like braking points, turning points, apexes and acceleration points. Riding on the track is that mechanical, it is like joining dots to dots.

Riding slower will help

Riding on the road is that difficult there is no comparison. You need to deal with other traffic, street furniture, poor road surfaces and worst of all the different characteristics of every single corner, as they are never the same. So riding at a slower speed will really help to process these changes and get it right every time without relying on luck. Luck plays no part here, it is knowledge, experience and skill.


Looking ahead

Part of having a structured riding plan is having good vision and being able to see and plan ahead. Most problems occur because the rider does not know what the future holds, as they look at the present (where they are going right now). Looking too close ahead and in front of the bike and not being able to look far enough ahead has always been a weakness for riders who have problems cornering.

Don’t blindly floow

Riders who have problems typically look at the bike in front, they blindly follow, thinking that if the bike in front can get round the corner, so can theirs. However it is not the bike that does the cornering, it’s the rider. There have been numerous motorcycle incidents that are categorised as Single-Vehicle Accidents (SVA’s), this means that only one vehicle is involved in the incident.

Motorcyclists account for many of the SVA’s because of rider error, by understanding your own ability and by knowing how to control your motorcycle, you are less likely to be involved in any incidents as you are in full control of you, your motorcycle and the situation around you.

Correct speed

Being able to plan the corner correctly is imperative to building confidence. Your vision must be good and you must know how to access the bend severity and how to position to maintain the best view. Just moving because everyone else does is not the answer to blindly copy other riders. You must understand what you are doing and why.

The correct speed is necessary to maintain a calmness through the corner and stay relaxed on the bike. There is a common saying that stipulates that you should go ‘in slow – out fast’. This basically means that you should slow down before the corner to be able to accelerate coming out. This will be discussed in depth in a future article.

If you are in the correct gear, travelling at the correct speed and in the correct position, you will never have a problem when cornering.

Practice Points - Instructor Riding Tip

Ride alone

Here are a few tips for you to try if you are serious about making some changes to your riding. Ride on your own, find a 20-30 mile route that you know and ride it frequently while you are making changes to your riding.

Practice slowing the speed down to be able to process the changes being made to your riding plan. You must become comfortable cornering at a slower speed first before you start to work on the other changes that may be necessary.

Stay relaxed

Look further ahead and try to work on extended forward vision. Start off by being aware of where you are looking and then try to extend your view on the same route as you look further ahead. You’ll be surprised how much you actually see by just doing this one small thing.

Try to stay relaxed and calm at all times on the bike so that you do not tense up. Think your way around the corner instead of looking down and once out the other side, being happy you made it!

Good luck, Ride Safe and Keep It On The Black Stuff.

Written by Simon Hayes

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